Jane Goodall on Ageing: Living a Full Life

by Catherine Rickwood

Have you ever watched a toddler learning a new skill like walking? The single-minded determination, though they often fall and stumble, is an amazing thing to see. A child has no doubt in their young mind that they will not succeed. They are steadfast in their pursuit of success and failure is just another reason to get right back up again.

Jane Goodall is an inspiring example of someone who has harnessed this tenacity and strength of spirit to pursue her dreams and spread her message of hope. At 83, she travels over 300 days a year and spreads awareness about chimpanzees and other environmental crises that are affecting our planet. At a recent interview hosted by Business Chicks, I was struck by her calm confidence and the obvious inspiration she took from the younger people in our society. “Because young people, when they understand the problems and are empowered to take action, when we listen to their voices, when we encourage them to roll up their sleeves and find ways to tackle the injustices and problems that they care about, are my greatest hope for the future.[1]” Through the creation of The Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots initiative, she seeks to teach young people that they matter and we all have a role to play.

Given the scope of her life and work, her response when asked about what she’s learned about how we age is not surprising. “Well, it’s a question I can’t really answer because I don’t think about it. It’s a question I’m often asked. What keeps you going? Well, I’ve given you my reasons for hope. I’m an obstinate person.”

In the face of huge corporations and politicians who refuse to admit we have an obligation to take care of our planet, or that our environment is facing a crisis, she stands fast. It takes amazing fortitude and strength of character to push back against a seemingly immovable force. “And when people say well this is something you can never change. I say, well, dammit I will!”

Jane Goodall seems to effortlessly ignore the struggles many of us face at various stages in our lives. By dedicating her life to the service of others and the world around us, she has strived to push boundaries and explore the possibilities life has to offer rather than focusing on possible limitations. “So, I don’t think about ageing, I haven’t got time to think about ageing.”

Inevitably, time will march on. But the future doesn’t seem to hold any fear but rather, a new adventure to be conquered. “And you know, the next thing will be death. And death is either the end of everything, in which case, so what? Or else it’s something else … in which case that will be the greatest adventure. And I think there is something else. So, I don’t look forward to the dying, but I’m not afraid of death.”

If we could all pursue our lives and purpose with such dogged determination and refuse to dwell on our perceived limitations, imagine what we could accomplish.

[1] Champ, Nicky. “17 Rapid-fire Questions with Dr. Jane Goodall.” Business Chicks. Business Chicks, 09 May 2017. Web. 29 June 2017.

About the Author

Catherine Rickwood

An experienced researcher and business executive, Catherine's work is informed by academic knowledge and evidence to deliver practical actions with measurable outcomes. These combined skills create a powerful and useful ability to delve deep on issues, ask incisive questions, think laterally, and bring knowledge and insights to individuals, a team, and an organisation keen to engage with, and include the over 50's as a valuable part of their business strategy.

Catherine Rickwood is solutions-focussed, working with innovative organisations keen to improve customer and employee insights and empathy to increase their success in new markets, build loyalty, and increase innovation. She does this using a co-design process that engages employees and key stakeholders to create collaborative solutions. Contact Catherine to discover how her services can support your organisation to harness the changing demographic reality.

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